Roughly 1.7 to 3 million concussions occur every year due to sports and recreational activities. However, five out of 10 of those concussions go unreported or undetected, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Leaving a concussion untreated could lead to serious health issues. Loyola Athletics’ concussion protocol seeks to ensure the safety of student-athletes so they don’t experience those side-effects.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that can result from a blow to the head and affect brain function. The brain is normally protected inside the skull from everyday jolts by cerebrospinal fluid, but a sudden jolt to the head, neck or upper body can cause it to hit the inner walls of the skull.
“Signs and symptoms of concussions are vast,” Corey Oshikoya, assistant athletics director for sports medicine at Loyola, said. “It could be a headache, nausea, disorientation or feeling foggy, sensitivity to light and noise… they could be irritable, have personality changes… those are all issues related to having a concussion.”
If it’s suspected an athlete at a Loyola game or meet has suffered a concussion, they are removed from play, according to Oshikoya. They then take a computerized test to assess whether or not they have one.
The team physician decides how to proceed based on the results of this test and the athlete’s symptoms, Oshikoya said. The athlete is then monitored on a daily basis until they no longer exhibit symptoms.
“This is when we would begin our concussion program and protocol,” Oshikoya said. “This is a ‘returning back to play’ protocol based on the number of days [since the concussion], how they feel and as part of that, we would also initiate our ‘return to learn’ program.”
When a Loyola student-athlete is suspected to have a concussion, the athletic academic advisors are contacted, according to Oshikoya. The advisors then get in contact with the student-athlete’s professors to let them know of any potential academic issues related to the concussion.
Loyola’s athletic program reacts swiftly to head injuries because symptoms can become long-term for a student-athlete if their concussion is addressed poorly, Oshikoya said.
“If [the student-athlete] continues to play, continues to participate, the symptoms can last longer,” Oshikoya said. “Therefore it can have detrimental effects in the brain because the brain has suffered an injury and is not healing appropriately.”
Loyola Athletics also works to prevent concussions before they happen. Athletic trainers conduct a prevention program with each team at Loyola to educate the student-athletes at the start of every year, according to Oshikoya.
Points covered in this program include the signs and symptoms of concussions and how to tell if they or a teammate has a concussion, Oshikoya said. The student-athletes are also given NCAA provided paperwork that describes concussions and issues to look for concerning head injuries.
Along with the student-athletes, coaches also receive educational information based on NCAA regulations so they can identify if their players may have suffered a concussion, Oshikoya said.
These education programs are tailored to each team based on their proclivity to have concussions happen to student-athletes while in play.
“The program for the soccer teams who head balls and have closer contact with athletes is a lot different,” Oshikoya said. “That’s different than the golf team, where very rarely competitors come to battle with each other.”
At Loyola, concussions occur most frequently with the men’s and women’s soccer teams, men’s and women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball, according to Oshikoya. However, he said concussions can happen to any student-athlete, both on and off the field in their day to day life.
Concussions aren’t as frequent within Loyola Athletics as other common injuries such as ankle sprains. Concussions across all teams at Loyola average about every six to eight weeks for a total of about two to three concussions every semester, according to Oshikoya.
In terms of prevention and treatment of concussions, it varies from student-athlete to student-athlete.
“Every concussion is different for every person,” Oshikoya said. “It just depends on how each and every person reacts.”